Five ways to manage company stress & fears and keep building loyalty??
Businesses worldwide have been in a state of fear while riding the twists and turns of an uncertain economy.
That is the veiw of customer loyalty expert JoAnna Brandi, who warns that, if this fear is left unchecked it will destroy a business from the inside out. To prevent that from happening, and to best prepare businesses for when the market turns around, she has developed Five Ways to Manage Company Stress & Fears.
Brandi says: “While the economy is wearing down businesses from the outside in, fear is eroding businesses from the inside out. If you let fear overwhelm the standard procedures that support employee engagement and great customer care, you are actually creating additional financial risks in your organization.”
She adds that everyone is stressed — managers, employees and customers — and each group automatically feeds off the other. “Humans are biologically wired to tune into each other’s fears, making fear a highly contagious emotion,” says Brandi. “That’s useful in life-threatening situations, because fear causes the brain to narrow its focus to one end: Survival.”
The survival instinct works well during natural disasters, but in business it can create financial disasters. How? “When a manager’s focus is fearful and narrow, she misses opportunities to give employees direction, applaud their efforts and accomplishments, and even simply talk to employees to find out what’s happening in their customers’ world,” says Brandi.
Employees then “catch” that fear from their managers, and Brandi says it narrows their thinking on behalf of customers. “A customer service rep’s ability to solve customer problems and provide the best possible care is greatly compromised when she is hyper-focused on watching managers for hints about the company’s well-being and, ultimately, the security of her job,” Brandi explains.
So how do you keep fears at bay, build business resilience and keep creating customer loyalty at your organization? Brandi says that shedding fear makes it more likely for businesses to stay alive in tough times, and prepares organizations to rebound more quickly when the market turns around.
According to Brandi, there are five actions that are effective and easy to implement:
1. Look in the mirror. Kick off each work day by taking five minutes – in your car, in the restroom, at your desk — to do an attitude check. Where is your attention? How would you describe your emotions? What is your facial expression? Do you detect any fear or stress? If so, consciously focus on breathing, thinking about what’s good or right in your life, or remember stories where you were resilient. Too stressed for that? “Fake it until you make it,” says Brandi. “Look in the mirror and smile at yourself until you feel a positive shift in your attitude.”
2. Check “Just my luck” stories at the door. Remember that even if the effects of the recession are impacting you personally, the crisis itself is not personal. “You can talk your energy up just as easily as you can talk it into the toilet,” explains Brandi, “Choose the former and be positive!”
3. Refocus & reframe employee fears. Your employees need your leadership skills now more than ever to pull their focus from fears of what they might lose to their enjoyment of what they do have. Remind them of what’s in their control – their commitment to customers, their skills and abilities, their participation in the office community. Encourage them to question processes that might need upgrading, and to share stories of times they were resilient. These simple conversations will empower them out of their fears.
4. Instead of commiserating, connect! Whether you’re building rapport with employees, or your employees are building rapport with customers, be mindful of connecting in positive ways without commiserating about how difficult things are.
5. Offer ’em Options. Policies, protocol and “same ol’, same ol'” may need to be recalibrated, rethought, revisited. Have an employee who really needs her hours but has a sick child at home? Think about ways to create a temporary telecommuting situation for her. Hear an employee helping a customer whose struggling with budget problems? Help the employee brainstorm so that the customer will hang up feeling known, heard and well cared for.
When you reduce fears and build business resilience, Brandi says you are automatically giving your customer loyalty initiatives a boost. She adds: “This is the way smart businesses are keeping hard-working employees and hard-earned customers, and preparing themselves for the economic upturn that’s sure to come.”